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Kem Sokha ‘denounces’ CNRP’s US conference

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Former Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) president Kem Sokha sat in his house recently. Supplied

Kem Sokha ‘denounces’ CNRP’s US conference

Former Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) president Kem Sokha has “denounced” a “so-called party conference” to be held in the US over the weekend, his daughter, an ex-party official, tweeted on Monday.

Kem Monovithya, who was the deputy director-general of public affairs for the court-dissolved opposition, also said the first Overseas CNRP World Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, was organised without the “proper mechanisms of the party”.

CNRP Worldwide is set to host the first Overseas CNRP World Conference on Saturday and Sunday this week, which it says “plans to define an overseas CNRP strategy” to “democratically fight” to “restore and rebuild a real democracy” in Cambodia.

Cambodia National Rescue Movement (CNRM) president Sam Rainsy is expected to attend as a co-founder of the CNRP.

“Hundreds of overseas CNRP leaders, political and social analysts, community representatives and NGO representatives from around the world will participate in this conference,” a CNRP statement released last month said of the event.

Two of Sokha’s defence lawyers on Tuesday said they met with their client on Monday at his home in Phnom Penh, where he is residing on bail on treason charges under court-imposed conditions.

Sokha, one of his lawyers told The Post, said he wouldn’t acknowledge any decisions made by CNRP Worldwide or support its plans.

Another Sokha lawyer, Meng Sopheary, said that after learning about the conference, she went to inform her client on Monday and the 65-year-old Sokha said he would not support the meeting.

“We learned about this [conference] and we informed [Sokha] of this information. He knows nothing about it, and he does not support the event at all,” she said.

Sopheary declined to elaborate on the reasons why Sokha was unhappy with the conference, but Monovithya wrote on Twitter on Monday that the conference was organised “without the proper mechanisms of the party”.

“Via his lawyers, Kem Sokha denounces the so-called CNRP conference that is to take place in the US in December without the proper mechanisms of the party,” she said.

The CNRP’s French branch head Sok Sophat, who confirmed his attendance at the conference this week, previously issued a statement backing the event and saying the CNRP is receiving support from Cambodians and the international community.

“The most important thing in attending this conference is to exchange opinions in order to solve major national issues, including stabilising and reinstating the CNRP in accordance with the needs of voters in Cambodia,” the statement said.

‘Impossible’ goal

Ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) spokesman Sok Eysan could not be reached on Tuesday, but he previously dismissed as “impossible” the meeting’s intended goal of finding ways to have the CNRP reinstated.

“The Supreme Court’s verdict is a final decision. The Kingdom of Cambodia is an independent and sovereign state, and we have a legal government that was created by election . . . [We] will not allow any foreign power to violate it, and the Royal Cambodian government will not exchange its independence and sovereignty for any aid,” he said.

Hang Vitou, a political analyst, said Rainsy’s strategy might be a good one in the short term and could solve some of the challenges facing the opposition, but he did not think it would be very effective in the long term.

“As for the arrangement of a forum to determine strategy for the former CNRP and the gathering in the US, I think it is not a big deal because the influence of Sam Rainsy at the moment is becoming weaker and the effectiveness of his work is less than before, so it might now be impossible to negotiate with the CPP.

“I think that most of [Rainsy’s] old team seems to not have confidence in him as before. [The conference] is a good short-term method for dealing with some problems, but I think it will make other [CNRP leaders] not wish to join and that could cause further splits [in the opposition].

“Besides the strategy behind this gathering, the CNRP should talk of negotiation [with the government], in order to restore democracy, and unify its supporters first,” he said.

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